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Elderly make up nearly a third of Japan's new entrepreneurs

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As Japan's entrepreneurial spirit fades, the elderly make up a rising share of people going into business for themselves.

[TOKYO] As Japan's entrepreneurial spirit fades, the elderly make up a rising share of people going into business for themselves.

About a third of new entrepreneurs were 60 or older in 2012, the latest year for which data was available, according to the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency, a part of the trade ministry. That compares with eight per cent three decades earlier.

The self-employed seniors tend to provide management consulting and other services, leveraging their professional experience, the agency said in a report.

Older Japanese are looking to put their knowledge and experience to work, with the goal of enjoying productive and fulfilling golden years, said Atsuko Nomura, senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute in Tokyo.

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They also have more capital than younger people, making it easier for them to get started, she said.

The bad news: The total number of small and medium-sized enterprises and micro-businesses in Japan has fallen steadily in recent years, according to the agency.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office vowing to transform the country into an "entrepreneurial powerhouse," but people are growing more afraid of risk.

That is especially true of the young, who came of age during Japan's long economic stagnation. 

Those in their 30s or younger accounted for 36 per cent of new entrepreneurs in 2012, the enterprise agency's data showed, down from 57 per cent three decades earlier.

Newly employed younger workers are the least inclined to start their own businesses in more than a decade, a survey by the Japan Productivity Centre showed.

Japan ranked next to last among 70 countries in a global survey of "early-stage entrepreneurial activity," according to 2014 data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

Japanese demonstrated the second-highest level of fear of failure, the data showed.

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